Using the Letterbox Club in schools: 'It's important for all children to have aspirations'
Published on: 23 January 2019
Westfield Infant School has been using the Letterbox Club – a fun programme for children who are looked after or vulnerable – for pupils in Years 1 and 2. Here's what everyone involved, including the children themselves, has made of the book packs so far...
Jill MacLauchlan, headteacher at Westfield Infant School in Hinckley, Leicestershire, on her experience of the programme:
Why did you decide to sign up for the Letterbox Club?
It fits in with our school priorities because we want pupils to reach their full potential in reading as soon as possible. It’s important for all children to have aspirations. We have children who have a lot of potential, who could possibly be the first in their family to go to university or college.
The Letterbox Club also helps us to support the transition from Year 1 to Year 2 by encouraging children to engage with reading and number over the summer holidays, as children can regress in their learning over this time.
Have you noticed any impacts of the Letterbox Club for children, such as attitudes or engagement?
The children really look forward to receiving the parcels, they are excited by it. Giving those children something just for them, like the pack of books and resources in a lovely bright envelope, is really important.
For us, as staff, it is all about inspiring a love of books. Books are going into households, so children are having access to books earlier, and younger brothers and sisters are using the resources too.
The teaching staff look at the parcels with the children and talk about the resources before they are sent home. We then follow this up by asking the children what they liked best and why.
What did you think of the books and resources in terms of their suitability?
I think you have some lovely ideas. It is really important that you provide everything the children need so they can get on with the activities independently. The children receiving the parcels often live in very busy households and if they can get on with the activities without needing constant help from an adult they are more likely to work on the activities.
For our pupils, the packs are very age-appropriate. It is also good to have both non-fiction and fiction books included. As the children move through the school, boys in particular, will often choose a book from the information section of the library rather than the story section.
Would you recommend the Letterbox Club to other schools?
Yes, I have already recommended the Letterbox Club to other schools and will continue to do so. We are very busy in school and I am just grateful that there is a resource like this that we can order knowing that the children are going to get quality resources.
Five parents (four mums and one dad) share their children’s experiences of taking part in the Letterbox Club:
How did your child react to receiving their Letterbox Club parcels?
Parent 1: 'He was very excited. He felt he was very special because he knew that not many had got it, and every month he was like "Mummy, it’ll be the new Letterbox parcel!" He absolutely loves it.
What did you think about the level of the books and the other activities?
Parent 3: 'It covered a good age range for my children. I’ve got two – one in Reception and one in Year 2. The books have been brilliant – the right kind of range. My son is able to read a few words, he would join in, and my younger child would try and sound out words.'
Parent 4: 'I think we’ve done all the story books as well, every single book. The Giant one – I read that every night at the moment. The Smartest Giant, yeah, I think we know that one off by heart.'
Did your child talk to any other family members about Letterbox Club? Did they use it with anyone else?
Parent 1: 'My son’s older brother, and then his granny. He’s very proud – he seems proud of his parcels.'
Parent 2: Every time she got one, she’d say, "Can we go and see Nanny tonight so she can see my new books?"'
Have you seen any benefits of the Letterbox Club for your child?
Parent 2: 'She now likes to go and do more things on her own. She’ll disappear, and we’ll shout upstairs, "What are you doing?" and she’ll say, "Oh I’m reading" or "I’m playing with my dominoes".'
Parent 1: 'Yeah, I agree with that to a degree because when we first get it, because it’s X’s, he wants to cut everything out, he wants to organise it all. Like with the dominoes: "Right, this is how you play it, Mummy", and he’s in charge of what book we read so it gives a bit of responsibility, I suppose.'
Parent 4: 'And along with that comes a bit of confidence as well because I’ve got five children, my daughter is the second and she’s the shy one, all the others are very loud and very confident, but she’s always been the shy one. But as you say, it’s hers to direct everyone, so she’s taking a bit more control with her siblings basically, and I think that’s been really good for her.'
Parent 3: 'It’s kind of taught my son to share a little better when it comes to activities, because he doesn’t do sharing. Because there’s only 18 months between them, they can go and share things together and do things together, so I think it’s given him that ability.'
Do you think there have been any changes in terms of how engaged they are with reading and maths? Or how often they do reading and maths activities?
Parent 3: He is more willing to do more reading and more homework now, which is nice because before he refused point blank to do anything.
Parent 4: She’s always been a reader. She took to reading quite easily, not like me. We could have done with this when I was younger! But I think I think it’s more about the confidence so that’s where the dominoes and things have been a really useful tool. And getting books every month has been great for her.
Do you think any of the changes will carry on once the parcels stop?
Parent 2: 'Because they’ve started, I think a lot of them will carry on. Every time we go shopping now my son is like, "Can we have a look at the books?’", rather than just going straight to the toys or the sweets.'
Parent 3: 'When you get to the end of the book, you’ve got books from the same author and mine will always go, "Can we have this book?", so they’re always asking me now for other books.'
Focus group with 16 children who have taken part in the Letterbox Club:
How do you feel when you get a Letterbox Club parcel?
'I feel very happy because I love the Letterbox gang'
'I’m happy and I want to open them as soon as I get them'
Has being part of the Letterbox gang made you feel any differently about reading or maths?
'Makes me want to read every day'
'The games were fun and they made me do better learning'
Does anyone want to tell us anything else about Letterbox Club or being in the Letterbox gang?
'I love the Letterbox gang because you get fun surprises inside'
Letterbox Club registration is now open for 2019
Local authorities and schools can use Pupil Premium Plus for children who are looked after, and Pupil Premium for other vulnerable children, to fund the programme.